Holyoke, MA-Holyoke Soldiers’ Home Superintendent Bennett Walsh was put on paid administrative leave after 13 veterans died at the Massachusetts state-run veterans live-in care facility. Twenty-five other residents were tested positive for coronavirus and 7 staff members were positive.
Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse, 31, said the veterans died of no fault of the staff at the home and have been doing a great job.
“This is how deadly coronavirus can be if we don’t follow proper protocol,” Morse said. He blamed Walsh for not notifying authorities of the deaths of 8 veteran residents over the weekend.
Here’s a statement released by Morse:
It has been devastating to hear about the full extent of the COVID-19 outbreak at the Soldiers’ Home. While I am grateful that the State is now taking swift action to ensure residents and staff get necessary care and treatment, I am grief-stricken for those we have already lost, and my heart goes out to their families and friends. The devastating impact of this virus on an individual is made worse by the limitations on their loved ones to mourn and grieve in traditional ways for those who have passed. To the families who have lost a loved one, know that all of Holyoke shares your grief. I’ve requested that flags in the City be lowered to half mast tomorrow morning in their honor, for their service to our country, and to our community.
This is a difficult day for our city, and it is almost certain that more difficult days will follow. Today is a painful reminder that while many people will experience mild symptoms or no symptoms at all, there are those among us who are at much higher risk, and we must be vigilant in our care for ourselves to ensure the safety of all. I call on all Holyokers to consider your actions, to be sure to follow social distancing to the best of your abilities, to contact your friends and loved ones, and to take care of yourselves both physically and mentally. While we need distance from each other now, we are in this fight together.
Secretary Sudders and her team have agreed to provide the City with frequent updates as the situation at the Soldiers Home unfolds, and I aim to continue to update the public with what we learn. It is in large part thanks to the outreach of employees from the State-run facility to my office on Saturday that I was alerted to the growing issues at the Soldiers’ Home. I want to thank Lieutenant Governor Polito and Secretary of Health and Human Services Sudders for taking immediate action upon my request, but most importantly, thank you to the nurses and staff at the Soldiers Home who cared for those whom we have lost, and who continue to care for those in need.